On October 6, The Asia Foundation and the Thai Fund Foundation conducted a trial run of our new online marketing training materials with 15 community leaders. We had a lot riding on this training: these local leaders were the gateway to our target beneficiaries, small businesses in northeastern Thailand.
Much to our gratification, the training was well received. Our project, Go Digital ASEAN, which is rolling out country by country across Southeast Asia, seeks to equip small businesses, young people, and people with disabilities in rural areas with the skills and tools to take full advantage of the digital economy. The project is funded by Google.org.
In Thailand, our curriculum of online marketing, ecommerce, avoiding online fraud, and other key topics has been consolidated into five videos hosted on the Line platform under the name @godigitalasean_th. We’re encouraging small entrepreneurs to use Line’s chat function to exchange ideas, get their marketing questions answered by our marketing experts, and eventually develop an online marketplace.
The day after the successful trial, I took a long drive to visit my old friend Lakela, who recently became a full-time farmer and entrepreneur in her home village about two and a half hours from Chiang Mai. I wanted to show her our videos.
Lakela welcomed me with a big smile and showed me a small plot of land near her house where she grows organic avocados that she sells on Facebook. On another plot, about 20 minutes from her house, she grows rice and plans to grow more fruit.
“I’m a farmer, like my mom and dad, but my parents only grow rice and nuts, using the same old techniques. I need new information to expand my line of fruits,” she said. Besides rice and avocados, she has mangos, plums, guavas, peaches, and star apples. She also raises these handsome pigs.
Lakela and her friend Najoe sat down to watch some of the videos. The lessons are very practical and down-to-earth. One instructor offers tips on taking better pictures, an essential skill for selling avocados on Facebook!
A marketing expert from Bangkok talks about the four Ps— product, price, place, and promotion. But Lakela and Najoe got particularly excited by a discussion of how effective marketing needs good storytelling. Lakela’s avocados grow near the source of the Ping River. “We’ll call them Ping River Avocados,” she laughed. “No one else will be able to grow avocados like us!”
Go Digital’s online video series is full of small but important lessons like these. This is digital literacy in the broadest sense: building successful livelihoods in the new digital landscape. Our commitment is to help MSMEs and small entrepreneurs like Lakela acquire the skills they need to take full advantage of the digital economy.
Before heading back to the city, I bought two kilos of Lakela’s Ping River Avocados. They taste delicious, by the way!
Arpaporn Winijkulchai is a senior program officer for The Asia Foundation in Thailand. She can be reached at [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author, not those of The Asia Foundation.
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